The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck

The Wedding Dress

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Something just speaks to Charlotte, owner of a bridal boutique, when she finds an old truck at an estate sale.  She buys it even though it is welded shut.  Her fiance, Tim, iss initially upset at her for spending money on it when they are saving for a wedding.

Upon opening the trunk she finds a beautiful hand-stitched wedding gown and some old military dog tags.  Her quest to learn more about this extraordinary dress leads her on a journey that will change her. She learns of the other brides who wore the dress and their stories of love, loss and redemption:  Emily from 1912, Mary Grace from 1939, Hillary from 1968.  Has Charlotte finally found the perfect dress and is Tim her true love ? If you are looking for a delightful, easy read, check it out!

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Monument 14 [series] by Emmy Laybourne

Monument 14

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I think the thing I liked most about this series was just how different it was.  I have been reading a lot of dystopian fiction over the course of the last few years, and much of it seems to be interchangeable.  Sure, the plots involve slightly different situations and the characters and places have different names.  But, though I enjoyed reading/listening to them all, it was pretty telling when my tween son literally asked me, “Didn’t we already listen to this book?”  Although this series could be compared to other apocalyptic stories — like the dead & the gone and No Safety in Numbers — it didn’t feel like a re-run.  The only problem I had with this book was that it seemed all too plausible.  It really creeped me out to read about a series of natural disasters followed by a leak of chemical warfare compounds, with society as we know it falling apart.  Very interesting story… but kinda scary if you’re known as “worst case scenario girl” and actually start worrying about things like this happening in real life.

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The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan

The Tragedy Paper

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This is another one of those books that I just cannot imagine reading from an actual book because it worked so well as an audiobook.  Although the plot is not remotely the same, this audiobook reminded me of Thirteen Reasons Why because it had one narrator for the main character and another narrator for a person who left behind a recording.  I’m not sure what this says about me, but I really enjoy “listening in” on these recordings and the reactions they invoke from the main character! 😉

At the prestigious Irving [boarding] School, there was a tradition wherein each of the graduating seniors left a gift for the incoming senior who would take over his/her dorm room.  When Duncan moved in to his room, he found a set of CDs that chronicled the previous semester as experienced by former senior Tim Macbeth.  From the onset of the story, it was pretty evident that something bad had happened to Tim during the previous school year and that Duncan was, somehow, involved.  These CDs were Tim’s way of sharing his story so that Duncan would finally know everything that led up to that event and why it was that he didn’t think Duncan should feel responsible.  I thought it was pretty genius the way the story unfolded around Mr. Simon’s “tragedy paper” assignment… And talk about suspense!  Although Tim made allusions to complications he was having due to his albinism, I was shocked when I finally discovered the whole truth of what had happened.

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The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty

The Hypnotist's Love Story

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I really enjoy this author, and this book did not disappoint.  It had just enough funny and crazy to keep me turning the page, and the situations she wrote about in this book rang very true.  I  loved, loved that the main character was a hypnotherapist.  It was so interesting to see her work with her clients in the story.  The other fun thing about this author is that she writes about Australia — it’s so interesting to  learn about the locations where her characters live.

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Flunked by Jen Calonita

Flunked

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I have always loved fairy tales, though I have often wondered how it was that all the “big bads” got away with so much.  Why was it that no one ever stepped up and did anything about the people who abused their power?  Sure, Cinderella got away from her terrible stepmother — but why wasn’t her stepmother held accountable for the things she had done?  This story goes outside the box and brings a little bit of justice into the mix with the Fairy Tale Reform School.  The teachers at FTRS — such as Cinderella’s stepmother, the sea witch from the Little Mermaid, and the wolf from Little Red Riding Hood — are actually working to atone for their bad deeds.  Such a clever premise!

Readers are introduced to the intricacies of the FTRS via Gilly, a petty thief who has been sentenced to three months at FTRS.  As the child of a poor cobbler whose business has hit a rough patch, thanks to fairy godmothers producing glass slippers for the royal princesses, Gilly tries to justify her thefts as necessary for the survival of her hungry siblings.  As soon as she gets to FTRS, she tries to think of a plan to run away so that she can get back to taking care of her siblings, but her plan is thwarted.  Luckily, her attempted escape helps her to befriend another student, Jax, who is also friends with her roommate, Kayla.  The three students soon discover that the “formerly” villainous teachers might not be as reformed as everyone else believes and set out to discover what they’re up to before it’s too late.  I recommend this story to fans of Adam Gidwitz’ Grimm series.

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The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

The Darkest Part of the Forest

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Let me just start off by admitting that I am a total Holly Black fangirl.  Aside from enjoying her style of writing, I appreciate the fact that she has written fantasies on so many levels.  She is a great go-to author for kids, tweens, and teens who enjoy fantasy.  The Spiderwick Chronicles are the perfect “gateway” series for early elementary kids.  From there, they can move on to (middle grade) The Iron Trial, and then graduate up to her YA works like White Cat, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, and Zombies vs. Unicorns (for which she was an editor/”Team Unicorn” commentator).

The Darkest Part of the Forest is a modern, feminist fairy tale.  Rather than a tale of a girl waiting to be rescued by a prince or a knight in shining armor, this story was about a girl named Hazel who actually WAS a knight.  Rock on!  Having grown up in Fairfold, hearing stories of the Folk and the devastation they could bring upon careless humans, Hazel should have known better than to make a deal with the Faery King.  After waking up one morning to learn that the faery boy from the enchanted glass coffin in the woods was awake and missing, nevertheless, it became abundantly clear that Hazel was in way over her head.  With the help of her brother Ben and his best friend Jack, Hazel had to try to figure out the role she played in the faery boy’s waking and whether there was any way to save them all from the magical mayhem she unwittingly set into motion.

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The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

The Boys in the Boat

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I seldom read biography, and certainly not sports biography, but this book was so highly recommended that I picked it up.  I’m so glad that I did.  This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.  While it focuses on the life of Joe Rantz, one of the crew members at the University of Washington, it also presents the other crew members, captures the depths of the hardships filling this country during the Depression, and paints a grim picture of Hitler’s Germany.

Who knew crew was such a grueling sport?  I certainly didn’t.  These college men worked incredibly hard and sacrificed much to earn a place on the team that ultimately triumphed in the Berlin Olympics.  I was inspired by their dedication and by their commitment to each other and to their goal.  This is a story about strength of will, teamwork, and values.  Read it.  You’ll be glad you did.

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